Friday, 5 June 2015

Racist jokes: a spiritual perspective

Today I felt like writing a few words regarding racist jokes. Since I've decided to be more consistent in my meditation practice a few months ago, I feel I am growing stronger and stronger by the day, and I think that is in part due to the fact that I no longer allow the racism and ignorance of others affect me. 

After a few years involved in some sort of activism, self-love and self-esteem started to settle within me, and I cannot say I'm in a superb place right now, but I've been learning to hold on to a good energy in ways I'd never imagined were possible. When you are sure about yourself, things start to affect you less and less. 

I still do understand and connect to the feminist adage that the 'personal is political', and I can certainly affirm that I am very much engaged in using my own narrative to effect change in my surroundings and I do not at all state that from a perspective of ego. I believe my work as an activist is very subtle. I mean, I do not hold that I am changing the world. However, I do believe I am part of that change whenever I voice my concerns as a woman of color, a migrant, a feminist, a spiritualist. 

So I've been thinking a lot about all those elements that intersect and somehow define my very existence. I am well aware that I am nobody in the bread queue to be giving out about everything which is wrong and brings pain to people in this world. However, speaking my truth has always been part of my way to connect and make sense of this world, even when I'd regret badly what I'd just said. I take all that I've said that hurt others graciously, as I know nothing's in vain and there's always lessons to be learned about everything. 

And one lesson I've learned about myself: whenever I get angry and aggressive, I give out my power to others. In other words, whenever I lost it, the opponent automatically felt as if he had won the argument. On the other hand, if I do not let things give me to the nerves, I am better capable and equipped to voice my concerns, be heard and voilá! Help others. But for me, it took a lot of self-esteem to begin to realize that. As I now do believe I am a person who deserves to be here - in Ireland, in Europe, in this World, in this Galaxy, in the Universe - I am indeed in a better position to empathize with others and even laugh when people are being plain irrational and ridiculous. 

And that is precisely the deal with those jokes. I believe many Irish people are particularly keen on them. It's understandable, as I see lots of self-loathing and low self-esteem in Ireland. It's an interesting phenomena that is probably deeply connected to a long history of being colonized by England. When you divide and conquer, you basically play with people's feelings in order to make them feel so inferior that the only solution is to accept whatever it is they have to tell you. There's countless examples around the world. Whenever I see my fellow Brazilians complaining so much about our culture and praising the United States without reservation, I can feel that resentment that can only thrive in the hearts of those who have little to no self-love. 

As I've now been involved in reading and taking part in the so-called 'spiritual world', I've read many, many positive and nice things. Sadly, I must admit there's loads of ignorance and bigotry in such realms as well. We tend to see the main Abrahamic religions in a not so beautiful light, but there's not much of a difference when you start to get in touch with people who are 'spiritual but not religious'. I've come across a lot of slutshaming, and the most worrying part has been in regards to the oversimplification of the concept of karma. I've seen a video where a guy openly states that rape is karma. I've sat through a lecture where the guy was just fine with subscribing to the racist concept of varna (that basically implies that lighter skin means lesser karma). 

Despite all this, I'm still sticking to the spiritual world. Because something changed inside of me, and that is (oh, the irony) due to my meditation practice. I ceased to bother with such massive displays of ignorance. Because they are so baseless that I don't have to worry, really. However, not having to worry is very different from just accepting everything. I am not refraining from speaking my truth. But I do so from a position of love, not anger, neither resentment. 

The other day an important Brazilian brand released a commercial where gay couples exchange Valentine's gifts. I was able to be happy for the progressive ad, even though they simply ignored that black people are a massive part of the Brazilian population and therefore deserved to be portrayed as well. I know the commercial made a huge difference in the lives of many, many queer people around the country. I also know that many of my fellow black friends have felt left out and discriminated against. In other times, that would have been enough to make me feel depressed for days. When you are a sensitive person, even seemingly trivial things can be a massive trigger to you. 

This is why today I don't like racist (and for the matter, sexist, ableist, ageist) jokes. Because although I've grown to have a thick skin, many people do not. And they deserve respect. And inclusion. However, I do believe it is all about the intention. Pick a mantra - you can say the same mantra over and over again and nothing will happen, really. But if you put intention to it, if you calm your body and mind with the intention you put to a mantra, you are indeed able to manifest its peace in your life. The same reasoning can be applied to everything, including such jokes. I know many nice people (including black people) who see no problems in racist jokes. I do not demonize them. 

The main problem, in my opinion, is that both mantras and jokes were created with a certain mindset. In the past, you didn't really joke with rich and powerful people. Jokes were a means of status quo maintenance. Mantras were created with spiritual healing in mind. If you chant a mantra just because you like how it sounds - it will probably not heal you spiritually. If you say a joke just because you like how it sounds - you are probably not being racist. However, if you come across someone who is not keen on jokes and you go ahead and tell such jokes, you are incurring in disrespect. And here I play the karma card advertently: when you hurt others with your racist jokes, you are probably creating karma to yourself. 

As for me, gone are the days when I took offense on racist jokes. But not taking offense is very different from not finding them offensive. I still find them offensive, and I don't care how many people of color you know who fancy such jokes because they do not feel affected by them. I want to laugh at intelligent sarcasm, not stuff that do not make sense and are, in essence, very stupid. So no jokes for me, thank you.